Giving Odds to the Almighty

Ree asked Fischer about … how Steinitz believed he could give odds to God. Fischer … replied that no one could give odds to the Almighty. He added “But with White I should be able to draw against Him. I play 1. e4 and if we have a Ruy, the position would be balanced. I could never lose.” Andrew Soltis, Bobby Fischer Rediscovered

It’s hypothesized that chess overall is a draw. But are certain lines that have been played for decades, or even centuries, actually lost for Black with best play?

When I rebooted my chess in the 21st century after a 20-year hiatus from tournament competition, I was looking for a safe haven. I decided to play the Modern with both colors. The reason for that was, as cramped as it is, this seemed the easiest to deal with an era of computers (and computer cheating) for two reasons:

  1. The formation and ability to defer committing is very similar in Chess, Bughouse and Kriegspiel (yes, in the two latter it’s really e6/Be7 instead of g6/Bg7, but you probably see the point). It’s sort of an ideal sort of restrained formation given the original location of the pieces.
  2. It’s always the same opening. Anything the opponent does turns into more or less the same thing.

Our host GM Davies disagrees:

Nigel Davies A lot of Modern Defence lines will be lost for Black when you go deep enough, not draws.

Jacques Delaguerre Do you mean that a lot of popular lines (e.g., the blitzy but hideous Gurgenidze) are lost? Or that there is no defense in the main lines?

Nigel Davies I suspect so. If White plays the best lines Black’s position sucks, which is a large part of why I stopped playing the Modern.

So far no opponent has convinced me of GM Davies’ pessimistic outlook, merely proving that I make mistakes. I’m struggling to tighten my focus and competitive skills to a level where I can hope to approach some answer to this kozmic question of Chess theory!

Jacques Delaguerre